1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kit-Cat Club

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KIT-CAT CLUB, a club of Whig wits, painters, politicians and men of letters, founded in London about 1703. The name was derived from that of Christopher Cat, the keeper of the pie-house in which the club met in Shire Lane, near Temple Bar. The meetings were afterwards held at the Fountain tavern in the Strand, and latterly in a room specially built for the purpose at Barn Elms, the residence of the secretary, Jacob Tonson, the publisher. In summer the club met at the Upper Flask, Hampstead Heath. The club originally consisted of thirty-nine, afterwards of forty-eight members, and included among others the duke of Marlborough, Lords Halifax and Somers, Sir Robert Walpole, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Steele and Addison. The portraits of many of the members were painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, himself a member, of a uniform size suited to the height of the Barn Elms room in which the club dined. The canvas, 36 × 28 in., admitted of less than a half-length portrait but was sufficiently long to include a hand, and this is known as the kit-cat size. The club was dissolved about 1720.